My bakery manager, Thomas, was one of the few people who made a long-lasting impression on me. Diligent, witty, and with a good sense of self-discipline, he was my role model at the bakery. Thomas was in his thirties. He was not a quiet person but he did not say much about his personal life. All we knew was that he lived with his girlfriend. They had an Old English Sheepdog which they doted on.
Our bakery opened seven days a week. Thomas was there everyday, or at least it seemed like he was. He made sure that our bakery was running at top efficiency. He knew every facet of the business. From baking buns, decorating cakes, handling the customers, leading our team, to managing everything that happened in between. Thomas did everything well.
He was a direct person. If he liked something I did, he would praise me verbally. If I did something he thought was dumb, he would point it out right the way and told me to "be smarter." He never sugar-coated any of his comments or beat around the bushes when he wanted me to change my ways. It was easy for me to communicate with him. He was blunt, so was I. The difference between us was, he knew when not to be blunt, and I didn't.
He taught me all my job duties pretty much by hands-on experience. I was able to learn from his demonstrations, which was perfect for a visual thinker. He never rushed me in terms of learning. He allowed me to go at my own pace. He could tell I was driven to do things correctly. Fearing that I was the one who would hold back the team, I urged him to teach me more, but he told me to take it one step at a time. I could tell Thomas was not a particularly patient person but he knew how to read people. He knew our personalities and how to get the most out of each of us.
Of course he also knew how to push people's buttons. One time there was an arrogant customer who yelled at a cashier to a point of tears for giving her the wrong change. Regardless of how the poor cashier apologized, she did not relent. Thomas tactfully told her that in order to resolve this situation correctly, he would have to count the till. He did it CAREFULLY, SLOWLY, and DELIBERATELY. 30 long minutes later, Thomas finally came to the conclusion that she was right. The customer stormed out with her proper change, and a half-hearted apology from Thomas.
Thomas later told me that if she had been more courteous, and accepted the cashier's initial apology, he would have resolved it immediately. Instead, she bullied the cashier. It got on Thomas's wrong side so he did not reward her behavior.
This event taught me that sometimes it was not about being right or wrong. It was about knowing how to resolve a situation. I realized that one could get a lot more done by working with people, instead of against people. Thomas continued to explain similar situations to me in the 2 years I worked there.